Fashion chain Jaeger has collapsed into administration, putting 680 jobs at risk.
The brand, which dressed Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe in its heyday, had been trying to find a buyer to keep its 46 stores going, but its owner threw in the towel on Monday and appointed administrators.
The private equity owner of Jaeger, which dates back to 1884, has appointed administrators at Alix Partners after failing to find a buyer for a suggested price of £30m.
The company has failed to turn a profit since private equity veteran Jon Moulton’s Better Capital bought the firm for £19.5m in 2012.
Jaeger employs about 680 staff across 46 stores, 63 concessions, its head office in London and logistics centre in Kings Lynn.
Peter Saville, Ryan Grant, and Catherine Williamson, joint administrators at Alix Partners, said they had been called in “at the request of Jaeger’s directors as a result of the company being unable to attract suitable offers”.
“Regrettably, despite an extensive sales process it has not been possible to identify a purchaser for the business,” Saville said. “Our focus now is in identifying an appropriate route forward and work with all stakeholders to do this.”
However, no buyer materialised and last week Better Capital sold Jaeger’s debt to a company understood to be controlled by the retail billionaire Philip Day, who heads up Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
A statement by AlixPartners explained that the request was made after Jaeger was “unable to attract suitable offers despite a lengthy and well-publicised sales process.”
Insiders now expect most of Jaeger’s stores to close down, although the brand is likely to survive as part of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill stable, which also includes Jane Norman, Peacocks and Austin Reed.
Jaeger was founded as Dr Jaeger’s Sanitary Woollen System Co Ltd in 1884 by Lewis Tomalin, an accountant who was inspired by a health craze promulgated by Gustav Jaeger, a German professor of zoology. Jaeger believed people would be healthier if they dressed in clothing made from animal hair, wool and fleece.
“Jaeger has struggled for years to truly understand its core clientele,” Glen Tooke, consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel, said when rumours first emerged about the chain’s potential collapse last week. “London fashion week collections and more fashion-forward designs may appeal to younger shoppers but, with 45- to 54-year-olds accounting for a fifth of spend, Jaeger’s tendency to overlook them has critically damaged its brand.”
Tooke said the brand had also been damaged by its reliance on discounting, with more than 75% of its clothes sold at a reduced price. “This constant stream of sales and offers has discouraged shoppers from paying full price and has lessened their trust in the quality of the Jaeger product – one of its fundamental selling points,” he said.
Earlier this year, Better Capital hired Alix Partners to flush out interest from potential partners or to find a buyer. Last year, Jaeger’s sales fell from £84.2m to £78.4m, while it booked a pre-tax loss of £5.4m, according to accounts filed at Companies House.